That Ain’t a Knife…

Before I continue the home improvement tale of woe, I will diverge into pop culture for a moment.

We watched Battlestar Galactica: Razor last week. I know at least one person peeking here hasn’t seen it yet, so…

Only clicky if you’ve seen it or don’t care about spoilers.

I wasn’t all that impressed.

There were parts of it that were neat, and things that add to all sorts of speculation for the upcoming season. It made you take another look at Admiral Cain, and what turned her into who she was when Pegasus and Galactica first made contact in the second season.

My biggest problem with it was that I couldn’t find it in me to like the main character, or, if you’d argue that Cain was the main character, the person through whose eyes we saw it all happen: Kendra Shaw.

She just wasn’t terribly likable. She came off as more petulant than stoic, not so much Cain’s protegee, more her minion, doing the boss’ bidding so she wouldn’t get shot in the head like Belzen.

While I understand that she doesn’t necessarily have to be likable, especially being the last real piece of Cain’s Legacy – the legacy of a woman who stripped civilian ships of their useful parts and people, leaving them stranded and defenseless against the next Cylon attack, a woman who killed her XO for disagreeing with her orders, a woman who was, in many ways, the exact opposite of Willian Adama – the viewer still needs some kind of connection to the narrator. Otherwise, you’re torn out of the story, never quite identifying enough to be drawn back in.

This doesn’t mean that every narrator should be the kind of person you’d go have a beer with. Villains and loathsome people make great point-of-view characters when done well. I give you Randall Flagg, Cersei Lannister, Gaius Baltar. They’re horrible people for all different reasons, but they’re fascinating because they’re so complex. The writers get you into their heads, which, granted, are not always pretty places to be. You might not root for them to win (and in fact I can hear Marty wishing a thousand horrible deaths on Cersei as I type this), but you see what makes them tick, what motivates them to their particular flavors of evil.

Kendra Shaw is neither good nor bad. She’s not much of anything, really, aside from a plot point, a witness to the story of Helena Cain and the crew of the Pegasus. Oh, she did bad things, and like Baltar on Caprica, was tricked by a Six into supplying information that would bring down the defenses. But I didn’t pity her. Her final act of heroism and sacrifice elicited little more than a “meh,” from me.

Maybe it was her introduction – you first see her chatting with a soldier on her way to the Pegasus, talking about how her mother got her this position. How it will basically be a stepping-stone – work under Cain for a while, then someday surpass her. That had me annoyed right off the bat. I smirked when the crew ignored her as she asked for directions. I cheered when Cain put her in her place (and giggled after Shaw exited the CIC and Cain and Belzen shared their snickers.)

I didn’t like her. I didn’t pity her when, two days after the attack, she’s looking all haggard and Cain tells her to get some sleep.

I kept waiting for the moment in the movie when the writers would yank the rug out from under me and make me like her, at least a little, even if it was only begrudgingly. That happens, sometimes, and I know Ronald D. Moore is capable of it. He’s done it to me at least once before. Good writers can do that to you, too. I give you Jaime Lannister, Harold Lauder in his final moments, and in BSG terms, Kat.

I hated Kat. The character was arrogant and mouthy, and goddamned annoying. Starbuck can get away with arrogant and mouthy. Kat, not so much. Every week, I waited for the moment Starbuck would finally crack her one across the mouth and shut her up. It kept not coming. And, maddeningly, Marty kept saying, “just wait, just wait,” and giving me the typed-out equivalent of a knowing smile.

And, of course, in her last episode – the one where she FINALLY BITES IT HOORAY – the bastards made me like her, just a little bit. Just enough that when she died, I felt like someone had kicked me in the chest. I don’t miss the character, and when I watch her first episodes again, I’ll be looking through the deleted scenes hoping there’s one called “Starbuck kicks the shit out of Kat,” but I’ll know there’s a moment coming where I don’t hate her as much, and can even respect her.

Not so with Shaw. Maybe it’s the same reason why I couldn’t find it in myself to like Martha Jones in Doctor Who this season. Her whole existence is pining for The Doctor. I want to yell at her that she’s no Rose Tyler, so get the fuck over him. Even when she proves useful, I can’t stand her. Shaw’s always wishing they were back in the good ol’ days, when Cain was alive and insubordination got you shot. Even when she’s dying, I just want her to get on with it.

So, Shaw kind of sucked.

Cain, though… Nicely. Done. Much like my text-filled Kat angst, Marty got to hear a lot of “oh god, I just want the Pegasus arc to be over” during the three weeks in which we got acquainted with Admiral Cain. Not because the storytelling was bad, and not because I didn’t like the characters. I wanted that arc to end because the writers were playing me like a gorram violin. Every episode featuring Cain and her crew had me running a gamut of emotions – angry, sad, outraged, relieved, suspicious. It was exhausting and painful and wonderful.

And here I was, watching Razor, loving and hating Cain all over again. I’d add her to the list of villains whose points of view don’t suck, who I can respect as I loathe. There’s the first Hybrid, so we have a bit more Cylon lore, and an ominous prophecy about Starbuck (which, as a storyteller, I know can and probably will be twisted all sorts of ways in the final season).

Speaking of the final season, of course we watched the sneak peek. Starbuck, on the flight deck (I think), lying on the ground and writhing (was she injured? I couldn’t tell), screaming, “We’re going the wrong waaaaay!” I got chills.

I need a little more time to ponder Razor and how it fits in with the rest of the series. On my break between Christmas and New Year’s, I’m thinking I might work my way through again, starting with the first season and watching all the way through, putting Razor in where it belongs continuity-wise and see if that helps, too.

This review probably comes off as more negative than I really feel about it. After watching and giving it a few days, I hied on over to read Jacob’s Television Without Pity review. Jacob is a brilliant, brilliant writer, and in his recaps, I find the things I missed the first time around. He made me feel better about it, even if he didn’t convince me to start liking Shaw. He catches the things I’ve taken for granted, and makes me take another look.

For example, how many times have we heard the opening theme now? That haunting, beautiful female voice? Here, go listen. Now go here. and see what Jacob has to say. Maybe I’m the last one to know it was a prayer; I’m sure that information’s out there – hell, it’s probably in the commentaries. But damn. This is why I read the recaps.

So, as of my first viewing, I have to give it a meh. Glad I saw it, loved Cain’s part in it, but the frame story just didn’t grab me.

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One Response to That Ain’t a Knife…

  1. Carlos says:

    Gosh! Thanks for rubbing it in!

    You know what the sad thing is? My Razor-buying trip to BestBuy became a Holiday shopping trip after I decided to get some dvds for presents.

    …then I forgot to buy Razor.

    I do this all the time, one day I’m gonna punch myself in the balls.

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